Archive for Conservation

Tengku Helps Wild Orangutans

orangutan

Tengku, the zoo’s male Sumatran orangutan, has something new to add to his resume:  International Researcher.  Tengku’s contribution to the research of Dr. Graham L. Banes, a biological anthropologist who visited the zoo last week, may help save these rare apes from the brink of extinction.

orangutan research zoo attraction

Dr. Banes shows some of his research to Tengku.

Dr. Banes studies the biodiversity of orangutans in zoos and in the wild and is building a database containing genetic information on every captive orangutan in the world.   

Tengku provided a blood sample so researchers can study his DNA as part of a four-generation study.  Zoo keepers had already trained him on this procedure via operant conditioning.  This video from 2012 shows the procedure:

Managed programs have existed in zoos for decades, but zoos are not the only participants in orangutan research.  Orphanages and rehabilitation centers, which are found on the “front lines” of orangutan conservation, are also included in this study.  Such facilities house orangutans who have been displaced, injured, or orphaned as a result of habitat destruction.

Dr. Banes explained that ensuring genetic biodiversity in zoos and rehabilitation centers is important.  A genetically diverse population decreases the likelihood of health problems and reduces the rate of infant mortality. 

A healthy zoo population will become essential if Sumatran orangutan populations continue to decline.  Orangutans have endured an 80-90% reduction in their natural habitat.  In other words, they are running out of places to live.  Their species is listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN (source: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/39780/0).   To compound this situation, proposed changes in Indonesian law further threaten the survival of orangutans in the wild.  According to Dr. Banes, “Preserves are being un-protected.” 

Tengku is helping his wild cousins, and so can you.  The AZA has prepared an online petition to the Indonesian government regarding the destruction of the 10-20% of rain forest cover that remains.  You can go to change.org to review and sign the petition.

The IUCN estimates that there are around 7,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild.  To put that number into perspective, consider that Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis holds 70,000 people for NCAA basketball tournaments. 

The zoo’s conservation page lists resources for those wanting to get involved with the conservation of wild animals and wild places.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

Posted in: Conservation, Indonesian Rain Forest, Orangutans

These Endangered Species Need YOUR Help

zoo bat attraction

Most Hoosiers have seen a brown bat (aka Myotis lucifugus or “Little Brown Bat”).   It’s the mosquito-gobbling, attic-dwelling species native to much of North America.  Bats, the only flying mammal in the animal kingdom, play an important role in our ecosystem.  They control the insect population and help to pollinate many plant species.

Sadly, many of our other bat species are harder to spot and their survival may be in jeopardy.

All told, 12 species of bats live in Indiana, but four of these are endangered, including:

~Indiana bat
~Gray bat
~Northern long-eared bat
~Evening bat (endangered in Indiana)

Six other species of bat are listed as species “of special concern” by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (source: http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/7662.htm). 

Because bats are a misunderstood yet essential part of our ecosystem, it is important that they continue to thrive in Indiana.

bat houses zoo conservation

A bat house hangs at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

What can you do to help? Build your own bat house!  Last summer, our Z-Team teen volunteers built several of these simple wooden structures, which now hang on zoo buildings.  Pam George, a retired educator, led this essential conservation effort. “This project did more than help our local bats,” said George. “It helped these teens learn new skills, and more importantly, that they can make a difference for wildlife.”

Get easy-to-use bat house plans from Bat Conservation International at batcon.org.

Please remember that bats, like any wild animal, should not be handled.

 Click on the images below to enlarge:

Posted in: Conservation

Did You Help Us Change the World in 2013?

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If you visited the Kids4Nature Kiosk this summer, then you sure did!  With your help, we directed $80,000 to the zoo’s Conservation Programs.  More than 180,000 zoo guests voted by releasing a metal washer into one of three coin funnels this season.   

So who won?

  • African Lions got 43% of the votes 
  • Javan Gibbons earned 34%
  • Sandhill Cranes secured 23%
Every vote counts!

Every vote counts!

We will soon send more than $80,000 to these and other organizations to support their conservation work.  By voting at the Kids4Nature Kiosk, making donations, and rounding up  at the Wild Things Gift Shop,  you’ve helped us to protect animals and their habitats.  Thank you to everyone who got involved.  Together we’re changing the world!

For a complete listing of the Zoo’s conservation commitments, click here.

Click on a photo of one of this year’s featured projects to enlarge:

Posted in: Conservation, Zoo News

Who’s the Cutest Zoo Animal?

red panda in log

There’s never been a Cutest Animal Contest at the zoo, but we’re pretty sure the red pandas would be strong contenders for the title.  In fact, “awwww” is the most frequently uttered word at the red panda exhibit! 

Male red panda Junjie, age 5, and his mate Xiao, age 4, have distinct personalities.  According to zoo keeper Sam Emberton, Junjie is the more cautious of the two.  “Junjie prefers to sit and watch before approaching us,” she says.  Xiao (pronounced JOW) is also shy, but she gets very interested when keepers arrive with food.  “She is very food-motivated, so she is willing to approach us,” Emberton says.

The red pandas are more than just cute critters – they are vulnerable to extinction in their native Himalayan home, which includes parts of China and Nepal.  That’s why we’re celebrating International Red Panda Day on Saturday, September 21 from 11 AM – 3 PM.

The red panda population has dwindled more than 40% in the last 50 years, according to some estimates.  Illegal hunting, loss of habitat, and competition with domestic livestock pose serious threats to the red pandas’ survival.  Only about 10,000 of these bamboo-eating animals remain in the wild. 

What is the zoo doing to protect this rare species?  By participating in the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, we help manage a genetically diverse zoo-based panda population.   (Although Xiao has produced two litters of cubs in 2012 and 2013, none of the cubs survived.)  By participating in events like International Red Panda Day, we can help spread the word about these fascinating creatures.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

 

Posted in: Conservation, Red Panda, Zoo News

How to Train a Crane

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For sheer beauty and elegance, few zoo birds rival the wattled cranes in the African Journey.  You’d never guess that these seemingly peaceful birds have an aggressive streak.

“They will jab at you with their beak,” says Amber Eagleson, who manages the African Journey.  “And there is some serious power in those legs – they will kick right at you.” 

Wattled cranes stand four to five feet tall and are native to wetlands throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Our birds, Betty and Hannibal, are an established pair who produced their first clutch of eggs last year.  Unfortunately, both eggs were crushed, probably by the cranes themselves as they moved around in their nest – not uncommon in first-time parents.

Because of the potential for injury, zoo keepers always work in pairs when entering the cranes’ marshy enclosure, which sits along the boardwalk near the African Journey’s exit.  They also wear goggles for eye protection, and carry a broom to fend off the birds if they get aggressive. 

Another tool used to manage the cranes is training.  “The cranes are trained to station on a target,” like a colored board on a stick, Eagleson explains.  “By rewarding them when they touch their beak to the target, we can move them to a different area of the exhibit.”  This allows keepers to keep the cranes’ attention when crews are performing maintenance in the exhibit, for example.  “It also allows us to see the birds up close and inspect their body condition,” Eagleson says.  The cranes are rewarded for their participation with pinky mice. 

Wattled crane populations are shrinking in Africa, due to destruction and alteration of wetlands.

Click on the photos below to view them full screen.

Viewing Tip:

Betty and Hannibal reinforce their pair bond with unison calls – loud, shrill honks that are made with heads tilted back.  They also perform an elaborate mating dance, jumping up and down with wings flapping while moving back and forth.  “I see this nearly every day,” Eagleson says.  Also, watch for nest-building activity this fall – eggs are usually laid in late August or early September in a huge grassy nest.

Posted in: African Animals, Birds, Conservation

Tiger Twins Turn Two!

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Indah and Bugara, our Sumatran tiger siblings, turn two years old this week!

“These tigers are very popular,” says Indonesian Rain Forest Area Manager Tanisha Dunbar of the two cats, who arrived this winter from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas.

Though they are twins, the tigers have different birthdays.   Indah, the female, was born on August 15 and Bugara, the male, was born several hours later on August 16.  We’re planning a small celebration on August 16! 

“Indah is especially interested in people,” says Dunbar.  “If you visit first thing in the morning, she’ll follow kids from window to window.”  Bugara is the more laid-back of the two cats.  “He is not as focused as his sister,” Dunbar says.  “His attention span is pretty short!”

Bugara is the larger of the two cats, weighing 254 pounds.  Indah weighs 204 pounds.  Aside from the size difference, it’s easy to tell the two cats apart because the tip of Bugara’s left ear is missing.  On Indah, look for the three black stripes above each eye that look like oversized “eyelashes.”

Because their mother did not properly care for them, Indah and Bugara were hand-reared by Cameron Park Zoo staff, which is partly why they are so interested in people.  Hand-reared cats are typically not good candidates for breeding, so Bugara has been neutered.   This allows us to exhibit the cats together even after they reach breeding age.

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which is their only wild home.  Their native forests are being destroyed to build unsustainable palm oil plantations. 

YOU CAN HELP!  Because palm oil is in thousands of everyday products, it’s hard to avoid, but you can support companies that buy only sustainably-grown palm oil.  Download a free app to help you make eco-friendly shopping choices that help tigers, orangutans, and other rain forest animals.

Learn more about Sumatran tigers.

Watch a  video of Indah and Bugara’s first day in Tiger Forest this spring.

Click on each photo to enlarge.

 

Posted in: Conservation, Tigers

Tara the Orangutan Now on Exhibit

Tara the orangutan

Tara, the Sumatran orangutan who arrived at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo this spring, is ready to meet the public.  She will be in the orangutan exhibit now through Sunday.

“Tara is amazing,” says zoo keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.  “She has adapted very well to her new home.”

Tara has not yet been mixed with Tengku, the zoo’s 28-year-old male orangutan, or Melati, a 28-year-old female, so she will be alone in the exhibit through the weekend.  “We want Tara to become completely comfortable in the exhibit before being mixed with the other orangutans,” Selzer said.  So far, the three orangutans have had limited contact with each other through mesh panels behind the scenes.

“Our next step is to allow Tara to meet Melati face to face,” Selzer says.  That encounter will probably happen in the next few weeks behind the scenes, meaning that there could be days when no orangutans are in the exhibit.  After Tara and Melati get to know each other, Tengku will join them.

Tara, age 18, has a habit of climbing up to the skylights in the orangutan exhibit, so zoo guests will have to look carefully to see the petite red ape this weekend.

Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in April from the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo.  She can be distinguished from the other orangutans by her petite build and darker fur on her face, hands, and feet.

The zoo hopes that Tara and Tengku will someday produce offspring, but it is too early to predict when that might happen.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species and are managed in zoos by a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population.  These rare apes are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where their future is threatened by persistent habitat destruction as forests are converted to palm oil plantations, timber concessions, and mining operations. Zoos could prove to be the last stronghold for this species, which some experts predict could become functionally extinct in the wild within 10 to 20 years.

Posted in: Conservation, Orangutans, Zoo News

Introducing Tara the Orangutan

Tara the orangutan

Tengku and Melati, the zoo’s Sumatran orangutans, are about to make a new friend:  Tara, a female orangutan, is the newest member of the orangutan family.

“Tara is full of personality,” says zoo keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.  “We’re thrilled to have her in Fort Wayne.”

Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in April, and, after completing a routine 30-day quarantine period, is getting to know male orangutan Tengku, who turns 27 on July 3, and female Melati, age 28.  Introductions are taking place behind the scenes.  “We first allow the orangutans to see each other through mesh doors,” explains Selzer.  “Only after we are comfortable with their interactions will we let them meet face to face.” 

The introduction process could take a few months, Selzer says, so it could be awhile before zoo guests see Tara in the Orangutan Valley exhibit.  During the introduction period, Tengku and Melati will be allowed to move back and forth between the exhibit and the behind-the-scenes areas where Tara lives, so there could be times when no orangutans are in the exhibit.

Born at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tara is 18 years old, which is middle aged for an orangutan (the median life expectancy for female Sumatran orangutans is 32 years).  She moved to the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo in 2002. Both Tengku and Melati have lived in Fort Wayne since Orangutan Valley opened in 1995 in the Indonesian Rain Forest exhibit.

“Tara is an awesome orangutan,” says Selzer.  “The staff at the Columbus Zoo took excellent care of her.”  Selzer notes that Tara is already trained on several medical behaviors, such as presenting her arm for a blood draw, which make her daily management much more efficient.   

Tara can be distinguished from the other orangutans by her petite build and darker fur on her face, hands, and feet.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species and are managed in zoos by a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population.  These rare apes are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where their future is threatened by persistent habitat destruction as forests are converted to palm oil plantations, timber concessions, and mining operations.  Zoos could prove to be the last stronghold for this species, which some experts predict could become functionally extinct in the wild within 10 to 20 years.

Learn how you can help orangutans by making wise purchases of everyday items made with palm oil.

Learn more about Sumatran orangutans.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

 

Posted in: Conservation, Orangutans, Zoo News

Mr. Happy “Rocks”

Mr. Happy Featured Image

A few weeks ago, our friends at Pokagon State Park called with a problem:  a 22-year-old Blanding’s turtle named Mr. Happy wasn’t looking so happy.  This turtle, named for the perpetual “smile” on his face, lives at Pokagon’s Nature Center and is a staff and visitor favorite.

Blanding’s turtles are endangered in Indiana, so Mr. Happy is an important ambassador for our state’s wildlife.  In May, Mr. Happy stopped eating and became lethargic. Fred Wooley, Pokagon’s longtime naturalist, called on Zoo Veterinarian Joe Smith for help.

“When Mr. Happy arrived at the zoo, he didn’t look well at all,” said Smith, who quickly determined the cause of Mr. Happy’s dire state:  Mr. Happy had swallowed a very large rock.  The rock was lodged in the turtle’s stomach and completely blocked his digestive tract.  He also had pneumonia, because bits of food had made their way into his lungs.

Using an endoscope (a flexible tube which can be inserted down the throat), a steady hand, and much patience, Smith was able to remove the pesky pebble.  “It took two hours to get the rock out,” Smith said. 

With his stomach now freed of the rock, Mr. Happy got right back to business. “He started eating almost immediately after we finished the procedure,” Smith said.

Mr. Happy is back at Pokagon’s Nature Center, basking in the admiration of his many fans.  “People beam when I tell them the story of that turtle,” said Wooley.  “I have to give Dr. Joe and his staff all the credit in the world.”  And the rock?  “We have it pinned above his aquarium,” Wooley said – presumably where the turtle can’t take a bite of it again.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Conservation, Reptiles, Zoo News

Our Growing Gibbon Family

Javon Gibbon Baby Blog Post

The Javan gibbon baby born at the zoo on April 16 is growing more adventuresome by the day, thanks to excellent care by his mother Dieng – and perhaps some encouragement by his rambunctious big brother, two-year-old Jaka.

The male baby, who has not yet been named, spends most of his time clinging to Dieng’s belly, but keepers have noticed more activity lately.  “We’ve seen him reach out to grab a branch once in a while,” said zoo keeper Kristin Sliger.  “But he’s still too little to move around on his own.”

Jaka, on the other hand, is always on the move.  During a recent photo shoot he rarely sat still, preferring to leap and swing among the branches and vines in the tree-filled exhibit in the Indonesian Rain Forest. 

Javan gibbons are rare – so rare that one other United States zoo exhibits this rare species.   When Jaka was born in 2011, he was the first Javan gibbon born in any United States zoo.  Dieng, her mate Lionel, and their two youngsters are the largest group of Javan gibbons in a U.S. zoo.

“We are honored to be one of only two zoos in to exhibit this endangered species,” said Zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon.  “With this species, we can make a significant impact on conservation.”

UPDATE July 1, 2013:  The baby has a name!  It’s Kado, which is an Indonesian word meaning “gift.”

Learn more about Javan gibbons.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Baby Animals, Conservation, Gibbons, Zoo News